As the 116th Congress was sworn in Thursday, about a quarter of government offices were shut down, 800,000 federal employees were furloughed or working without pay, Senate Republicans were publicly sparring over President Donald Trump’s character, the incoming House speaker was discussing the prospect of indicting a sitting president, and Trump was attacking a potential 2020 challenger on Twitter.
In other words, it was just another morning in America in 2019.
Any hope that a bitter midterm election campaign would give way to a less contentious Capitol once the dust settled has been dashed by insults, angry tweets, allegations of election fraud, and ultimately a partial government shutdown over funding for a border wall.
As the shutdown nears the end of its second week, Republicans and Democrats are pointing fingers at each other and little progress has been made toward a compromise amenable to both sides. House Democrats planned to pass bills Thursday that would reopen the affected agencies, but Senate Republicans and the president have already rejected their proposed solution.
“I think divided government always intensifies policy debates. When you have a polarized political system and you have those intensified policy debates, it becomes more difficult to respond to each other in civil tones,” said Cornell Clayton, co-editor of “Civility and Democracy in America” and director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service at Washington State University.